By Tamas Mondovics
With Hurricane Florence on the minds of many residents on the coastline and locally the need to revisit storm readiness and disaster preparedness becomes a top priority.
Such is the case with members of the Johnson County Emergency Management Agency located at 216 Honeysuckle St. in Mountain City, led by JCEMA Director Jason Blevins and Operations Officer Michael Sumner, who are on alert to make sure area residents are cared for before, during and after a storm.
While Florence was downgraded from a category 4 (Major), hurricane to a category 2, on Monday with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph, the storm has rightly earned its ‘monster’ categorization thanks to the expected amount of rainfall and the subsequent flooding forecast.
AccuWeather meteorologists believe that the storm will survive long enough to bring rounds of heavy rain and the risk of flooding to the central Appalachians and the northeastern United States next week. Florence’s widespread torrential rainfall and significant flood risk are expected to remain in southern Virginia on the south and will expand to the southern Appalachians this weekend. The weather pattern is expected to shift next week, allowing Florence, as a tropical rainstorm, to accelerate northeastward, AccuWeather reported.
The punch Florence could deliver the next few days as it moves inland is by no means unprecedented.
Hurricane Hugo, in September 1989 was one of the strongest hurricanes in South Carolina’s history and was at the time the most costly hurricane ever in the Atlantic Ocean. mEven seven hours after its final landfall, Hugo still produced hurricane-force winds across the western Piedmont and foothills of North Carolina. In all, Hugo was responsible for at least 86 fatalities and caused at least $8 to $10 billion in damage [unadjusted 1989 dollars; some sources quote higher damage and fatality statistics].
Hugo attained hurricane strength on September 14, then turned west-northwestward early on September 15 as it quickly strengthened into a rare category five hurricane with maximum sustained winds near 160 mph. The storm caused major widespread flooding across several states as it made its way western North Carolina before northward and moved through the mountainous terrain of Virginia and West Virginia, still producing wind gusts of 40 to 55 mph east of the storm’s center.
“We are dedicated to care for our residents first before we use our resources to assist other areas affected by the storm,” Blevins said.
Here is a breakdown of what kind of damage each category of storm can do:
- Category 1: Winds 74 to 95 mph (Minor damage)
- Category 2: Winds 96 to 110 mph (Extensive damage — Can uproot trees and break windows)
- Category 3: Winds 111 to 129 mph (Devastating — Can break windows and doors)
- Category 4: Winds 130 to 156 mph (Catastrophic damage -— Can tear off roofs)
- Category 5: Winds 157 mph or higher (The absolute worst and can level houses and destroy buildings)